Alex K.

Alex Karsten


Artabanus’ Shiftingly Solonian Rhetoric


Throughout his speeches in Book 7, Artabanus makes arguments that readers of Book 1 will recognize as characteristically Solonian (as has been well noted). But the characterization of his thought as being “Solonian” (in the sense of the Herodotean Solon) does not mean that it is monolithic–Artabanus’ rhetorical aims shift from speech to speech, as do the specific ideas which he borrows from Solon.*

In this project, I will seek to answer the following questions: What are the different rhetorical aims of Artabanus’ speeches, and how do these changes signal a deeper change in Artabanus’ thought? How do the different Solonian ideas suit those different rhetorical purposes? What can the shifting uses of Solon’s ideas tell us about Solon’s thought itself?

*The use of the term “borrows” gets at a tricky narratological issue: as an audience we must recognize that, on the mimetic level, Artabanus cannot be thought to know that the advice he is giving is “Solonian” and yet, on the level of the discourse, the inheritance of Solon’s thought (and his position as an advisor who refuses to flatter the King) is a key aspect of Artabanus’ characterization and cannot be ignored.

Annotated Bibliography.

Baragwanath, E. 2008. Motivation and Narrative in Herodotus. Oxford.*

This book examines the ways in which Herodotus encourages his readers to actively consider the motivations behind his character’s actions. To the specific interests of my paper, it contains a thoughtful consideration of the Persian/Greek  dynamic in the debates of Xerxes and Artabanos throughout the beginning of book 7, making specific note of the “Solonian” nature of Artabanos’ thought. It defers to other sources–specifically Harrison 2000 and Mikalson 2003 –for a thorough discussion of this phenomenon, but what discussion it does have treats Solon’s thought, and its reflection in Artabanos’ rhetoric, as being almost entirely homogenized.

Chiasson, C. 1986. “The Herodotean Solon.” GRBS 27: 249-62.*

Chiasson argues for Solon in Herodotus as neither an “essentially free creation of Herodotus” nor “an essentially accurate representation of the Athenian’s thought,” but rather as “a recognizably Herodotean adoption of Solon” (249). He notes that Solon does not directly connect misfortune to divine jealousy, but assumes that this is the implication of what Solon has said. He attributes the inconsistency between the Tellus story and that of Cleobis and Biton to “Herodotus’ combination of material from different sources” (252) rather than inherent complexity in Solon’s thought. A useful source for parallels in Solon’s poetry (although it was recently superseded by his own later article, below). Considering the fragmentary state of Solon’s extant poetry, it comes dangerously close to argumentum ex silentio when it argues that aspects of the Herodotean Solon are not Solonian because they are reflected in the extant poetry of  Solon.

Chiasson, C. 2016. “Solon’s Poetry and Herodotean Historiography.” AJP 137: 25-60.*

This source updates some of the work that Chiasson did in his earlier article and should quickly become a locus classicus for those looking for connections between Solon as a poet and Solon as a character in Herodotus. Of particular interest is the way in which Chiasson discusses Herodotus’ use of Solon’s poetry to lend further authority to his own thematic aims. The examination of Solon’s thought structure in fragment 13 (West’s edition), and how that relates to Herodotus’ own thought would be a great jumping off point for a project that looks outside of the scope of the Histories themselves. Again, Chiasson shows too little regard for the fragmentary nature of the Solonian corpus when he says, “It is reasonable to conclude that in the fifth century, Herodotus and his contemporaries ‘knew’ (rightly or wrongly) as the work of Solon a body of poetry similar in content to the verses that later writers attributed to the Athenian” (28).

Dewald, C. 1985. “Practical Knowledge and the Historian’s Role in Herodotus and Thucydides” in The Greek Historians: Literature and History: Papers Presented to A.E. Raubitschek: 47-63.*

This chapter identifies an essential difference between wise figures in Herodotus and Thucydides: in Herodotus these figures tend to be “detached but interested” (54), while for Thucydides such detachment is impossible. Solon serves as an programmatic figure in this article, and as a paradigm of the sort of wisdom in which Thucydides has little interest (57). Although not strictly relevant to my paper, I found particularly interesting the discussion of the importance of physical objections in the Histories that seems to anticipate the recently trendy “Object-Oriented Theory” by a few decades.

Evans, J.A.S. 1961. “The Dream of Xerxes and the ‘Nomoi’ of the Persians.” CJ 57: 109-11.*

This brief article simplifies Artabanus’ character into its basic elements, calling him, “a stock figure, setting the wisdom of classical Greek tragedy against the Persian tradition” (109). It calls Xerxes a “kind of tragic figure” and offers a novel theory: it was not fate but nomos that sealed Xerxes’ tragic fate (111). The pressure of the nomoi of the Persians would have made not going on the expedition as dangerous as going. Although not explicitly in conversations with articles that deal with divine phthonos mentioned in Solon and Artabanus, it is interesting to consider in these terms.

Harrison, T. 2000. Divinity and History: The Religion of Herodotus. Oxford.*

The chapter “Solon and Human Fortune” is a most direct and thorough examination of Solon’s thought in Herodotus’ work. It resists oversimplifying Solon’s thought and emphasizes the ways in which various aspects of that thought are echoed in later (and earlier) passages.  It contains a good analysis of what Solon’s Tellus and Cleobis and Biton stories tell us about his understanding of human fortune, as well as a helpful (if perhaps somewhat incomplete) discussion of parallels between the Herodotean Solon and the extant fragments of Solon, along with the points of contrast.

How, W.W. and J. Wells. 1912. A Commentary on Herodotus. Oxford.*

This commentary is rich with parallels to the statements of Solon in other Greek literature (esp. Homer and tragedy). It also recommends helpful, albeit dated sources in considering how Solon’s thought fits within the Greek tradition of pessimism and fatalism. Although it does note the Greek nature of Artabanos’ thought, it misses multiple connections between Artabanos and Solon.

Lateiner, D. 1989. The Historical Method of Herodotus. Toronto.*

An important source for understanding the structure of Herodotus’ Histories, and also–as Lateiner himself explicitly comments upon–how Solon’s thought is reflected in that structure. Lateiner’s section on “Endings” begins with his translation of Solon’s final words: “You’ve got to look for the end of everything, how it will turn out” (1.32.9): a fitting jumping off point for a discussion of how endings operate in Herodotus. Of particular interest to the debate on the moralism of Solon’s words is Lateiner’s discussion of the “structuring concept” of limit, propriety, and transgression.

Lloyd, M. 1987. “Cleobis and Biton (1,31).” Hermes 115: 22-28.*

This source was extremely helpful in facilitating the development of my thought on the complexities of the relationships between Solon’s different answers to Croesus in Book 1. Gathering together Solon, Amasis, and Artabanus he observes, “Although all three are essentially correct, none of them expresses the whole of Herodotus’ own wisdom: Herodotus himself understands more than any individual character in his history” (23). The focus of the article is on how the Cleobis and Biton story fits with Solon’s other two responses, and it includes a rich (although admittedly dated) array of bibliographic material to other scholars that have tackled the same question. The ultimate conclusion is that Solon’s “advice” is coherent (28).

Macan, R. 1908. Herodotus: The Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth books, with Introduction, Text, Apparatus, Commentary, Appendices, Indices, Maps. London.*

Macan’s commentary of the relevant sections of the work includes multiple good discussions of the parallels between Solon and Artabanos–notable especially for their nuanced view of Solon’s philosophy. The analysis is too heavily colored, however, by Macan’s subscription to the theory that Book 7 was composed before Book 1. He even goes as far as to state that the parallels are due in part to a “render[ing] to Solon what belonged to Solon” when the opportunity presented itself in the later composition of Book 1.

Mikalson, J. 2003. Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars. Chapel Hill, NC.*

This source provides a trenchant analysis of the importance of divine phthonos to Solon (and Artabanos’ thought). It perhaps overemphasizes the Croesan interpretation of Solonian thought–a prosperous person is destined to fall–in substitution for the idea that, rather than being destined for doom, the future of humans cannot be known. A good source for parallels to Artabanos’ views in outside archaic lit.

Montiglio, S. 2000. “Wandering Philosophers in Classical Greece.” JHS 120: 86-105.*

Connects Solon, as described with Herodotus, to the greater Greek tradition of philosophical wandering: beginning all the way back with Odysseus (interestingly enough, Elizabeth Irwin, in her 2005 monograph, sees Solon–as he presents himself in his own poetry–as an Odyssean figure). Calling Solon “the first philosopher credited with wandering” (88), the biographical parallels to Herodotus’ own wandering become evident. Montiglio calls needed attention to Croesus’ statement crediting Solon’s wisdom to his wanderings (1.30), and the fact that, unlike later wise men who wander to teach, Solon’s wandering is explicitly for the purposes of learning.

Munson, R.V. 2001. Telling Wonders. Ann Arbor, MI.*

Although the section of this book that is relevant to my project is rather small, it is packed with important observations and often cited. Munson notes the immediacy after the story of Solon of the statement that a divine nemesis came upon Croesus (1.34), with an explicit reference to its being the narrators own opinion (hôs eikasai), and observes the effect that this statement has of moralizing what he considers to be Solon’s amoralistic thought. Munson also speculates about the role that Solon’s rhetorical situation may have played in the form which his advice took, noting that Solon and others who speak to kings tend to connect calamity and greatness rather than calamity and wrongdoing in order to avoid angering their advisee. Artabanus, on the other hand, as he observes, unmistakably moralizes.

Pelling, C.B.R. 1991. “Thucydides’ Archidamus and Herodotus’ Artabanus” in Flowers, M.A. and M. Toher (eds.) Georgica: Greek Studies in Honour of George Cawkwell (London): 120-42.*

This comparative focuses on the two “wise adviser” figures, and what their differences may reveal about the nature of wisdom in Herodotus and Thucydides. Interestingly, Pelling chooses to start the chapter with Archidamus, rather than the chronologically (both in historical reality and in terms of the work in which they appear) prior Artabanus. This is perhaps because he uses Archidamus as a paradigm for Artabanus rather than vice versa. This chapter contains the most systematic examination of the ways in which Artabanus’ predictions don’t quite come true, as well as–to my mind–the best discussion of Artabanus’ cryptic “land and sea” speech. There is also a brief aside on different interepretations of the dream that visits Xerxes and Artabanus that was helpful for my purposes.

Pelling, C.B.R. 2006. “Educating Croesus: Talking and Learning in Herodotus’ Lydian  Logos” ClAnt 25: 141-77.*

This article will serve as one of the primary springboards into my paper. Rather than trying to simplify Solon’s wisdom, Pelling identifies the disparate themes of Solon’s advice to Croesus. This understanding of the various themes of Solon’s advice leads to trenchant observation of the ways in which Croesus, and the reader, both learn and do not learn from Solon’s advice–latching onto one or more of the various themes based on later experiences that confirm those themes. What other scholars treat as monolithic wisdom has been honed down by the experiences of Croesus over the course of the Lydian logos from the more complex, perhaps even inconsistent, moralizing of Solon. Parallels to Artabanos are observed, but Pelling stops short of observing the ways in which Artabanos himself serves as a prime example of the process that he has identified: he latches on to different aspects of Solon’s wisdom depending on his experience and rhetorical goals.

Redfield, J. 1985. “Herodotus the Tourist.” CPh 80: 97-118.*

Written from the perspective of a modern ethnographer, this article compares Solon’s journey for the sake of theōria to that of Herodotus’ narrator. It argues that Solon, whose moralism (which is treated as a monolithic entity) is thematic in the work, appears as an alter-ego to the Herodotean narrator: both teach us how to think about the way in which the world operates. His discussion of Cyrus’ path from koros to hybris to atē shows a deep understanding of how Solon’s principles of human fortune can hold without needing to assert certainty.

Shapiro, S.O. 1994. “Learning through Suffering: Human Wisdom in Herodotus.” CL 89: 349-55.*

This article is in large part a response to claims made by Stahl; namely, that the characters of Herodotus’ Histories do not really learn, and thus Herodotus means to show wisdom as “paltry and easily changed.” Shapiro examines three major characters in depth–Croesus, Cyrus, and Artabanus–all of whom have direct or literarily direct connections to Solon’s wisdom. In the case of Croesus and his notorious advice before the battle with the Massagetae, she argues well that he was wise within the constraints in which he was put (not going into battle being off the table entirely). I was disappointed to see the advice to Croesus considering the spoiling of the city being left out entirely–a connection to Solon can perhaps be made here: Croesus understands that what was once his is no longer. Her argument regarding Cyrus, that he was never wise in a Solonian sense in the first place, seems to me an effort to confirm her thesis on a technicality. Finally, her discussion of Artabanus calls particular attention to the importance of his dream, and is a good source for examination of the impact and implications of that dream.

Shapiro, S.O. 1996. “Herodotus and Solon.” Cl.Ant. 15: 348-64.*

This article seeks to disprove the claim that Herodotus does not necessarily agree with Solon (made most prominently by Lang 1984 and Waters 1985). It is thus an obvious first stop for examinations of ways in which Solon’s thought is programmatic for Herodotus’ Histories. Shapiro breaks Solon’s though into three distinct points: 1. The jealousy of the gods. 2. The instability of human happiness and inevitable misfortune that thus defines human life 3. Because of these first two factors, it is impossible to call anyone happy until you see they have ended their life well. She then carefully examines the trajectory of these three themes throughout the work. Some of the connections are rather forced (n.b. the nemesis following Solon’s departure is causally related to downfall), but they are all certainly worth striving with. A good (although ultimately unconvincing) argument in favor of a moralistic reading of Solon’s thought.

Stein, H. 1963. Herodotos. Berlin.*

This commentary is perhaps the most thorough of those I have seen in analyzing the implications–and inconsistencies–of Solon’s wisdom in Book 1. It contains frequent references to parallels in Book 7 and in previous and contemporary Greek literature. Of particular interest are the discussions of φθόνος, which characterizes it as being essentially synonymous with νέμεσις in Herodotus’ thought, and that concerning fortune and misfortune.

Zalin, M. Unpublished. “Count No Man Happy: Reading Herodotus and Solon by the Numbers”

This source reckons with an aspect of Solon’s dialogue with Croesus–his careful reckoning the days of a man’s life–that has, as of yet, been slightly under-appreciated for its thematic significance. In it, Zalin argues for a methodical similarity between the two figures, as an addition to the previously observed thematic and (as in Montiglio 2000) biographical similarities between Herodotus and the Athenian wise man. Zalin emphasizes that by “showing his work” in instances like the Solonian calculation, Herodotus invites his readers to play a more active, evaluative role. This article was kindly shared with me by its author before its publication, and thus was an invaluable source for the most recent sources on the topic of Solon in Herodotus.